Monthly Archives: December 2016

Taking Your Control With Mental Toughness Techniques

Sport psychology is dubbed the “science of success” because it studies the four mental toughness skills–motivation, confidence, concentration, and emotional and physiological control–that athletes use consistently, in conjunction with training and nutrition, to give them the ultimate performance edge. Whether you are a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, coach or mind-body wellness professional, the information, tools and techniques discussed here will help your clients to enhance their performance and give them the best shot at realizing their true potential. Be sure to use them yourself–and enjoy the benefits–before you teach them!

Mental toughness techniques will help your clients to perform consistently. How? Because these techniques all take advantage of the one thing clients have 100% control over: their effort. In a sport and physical activity environment, where there are many uncontrollable factors, it’s essential for clients to focus on aspects of performance they can control. Help them understand and put into practice these principles:

  • They can control how they think about their fears.
  • They can control when they pay attention to their vision.
  • They can take the time to highlight things they did well and things they could do better next time.
  • They can practice positive self-talk.
  • They can choose the optimal times in their training to tune in or tune out of the work (i.e., when to choose association and when to opt for dissociation).
  • They can be prepared for training by selecting songs that set the stage for success and happiness.

The time is now, and the tools are ready to use. Feel free to experiment with one mental toughness technique at a time or introduce a few at once. As clients incorporate these skills into their daily physical training, you will see them reach new standards of performance and feel incredible about themselves and your body!

You Need To Know Your Coaching Style

You look across the hall at Popular Instructor’s class and marvel at how she packs the house day after day, week after week. You’ve studied her style and tried your best to emulate her music, cuing, choreography—even the way she dresses—but your numbers are shrinking instead of growing. What are you doing wrong?

There are many reasons people come to your class, but number one on the list is you.Think about it: You are a leader, a motivator, an educator and a role model. If you try to be someone other than yourself, it’s like teaching a high-impact class in a pair of shoes that are five sizes too big. You fall flat on your face.

The best way to clinch your coaching style and shine like the star you are is to capitalize on your personal strengths and neutralize your weaknesses.

Find Your Coaching Style

To get started on the path to professional authenticity, first see which of these coaching personas rings most true to you:

The Drill Sergeant: You expect a lot from your classes and you’re not afraid to let people know when they’re coming up short. Your cues are short and to the point, and you call out individuals who need to work harder. Praise is rare and must be earned.

Your strength: tough love

Your loyal followers are “people pleasers” who like to meet high expectations.

The Mentor: You know everyone’s name, who’s training for an event, who’s injured and who has a reunion coming up. People seek you out for advice, and you often find yourself talking in the locker room an hour after class.

Your strength: interpersonal relationships

Your loyal followers are people who love attention.

The Cheerleader: You bounce into the gym and infect every class with energy and positivity. You believe a can-do attitude can overcome any obstacle.

Your strength: optimism

Your loyal followers drag themselves into class and rely on you to wake them up and light a fire beneath them.

The Academic: You’re a voracious reader who is up to date on the science behind the workout, and you love educating the masses. You provide a reason-based approach, believing people will perform better if they know why and how they are working so hard.

Your strength: curiosity

Your loyal followers love to be “in the know.”

The Zen Master: When you enter the room, everything calms down. Your voice is measured and even. You ease into the workout and launch an intense and strategic “sneak attack.” The result: People work harder than they thought they could.

Your strength: mental clarity

Your loyal followers use exercise as an escape from their harried lives.

We all have talents that develop early in life, explain Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently(Gallup 2000). These talents are deeply ingrained in our personalities during childhood and cannot be learned. You can’t teach someone to be high-energy, organized, calming, outgoing or able to forge strong relationships quickly. This explains why some things are impossibly difficult for some people and easy for others.

Should a Cheerleader try to be more Zen? Should a Mentor study so she can answer questions with data and empirical evidence the way an Academic would? Either of these strategies would crash and burn, waste time and leave a scar of failure. It’s better to spend your time developing your talents.

Sample Class With Circuit Progressions

To achieve results, your participants need to be challenged in new ways. If your strength training classes are circuit-style and you want to up the ante, try adding strategic progressions. This workout, a traditional circuit format, cycles through several exercises with minimal rest. The key is to challenge participants by adjusting a variable during each cycle. With this approach, they enjoy the familiarity of the sequences, as well as fun surprises.

Circuit Progressions Details

Goal/Emphasis: muscular strength and endurance, emphasizing compound movements for a more functional approach

Time: 60 minutes

Equipment: steps, dumbbells

Music: 125–130 beats per minute

Additional notes:

  • In each circuit, perform the four exercises for 1 minute each, allowing 15 seconds to transition between moves.
  • Rest for 1 minute after each circuit.
  • After the first circuit, adjust the following variables:
    – Circuit Two: Add a balance challenge.
    – Circuit Three: Increase range of motion or add power.
    – Circuit Four: Add movement in an additional plane of motion.
  • Preview exercises before class. There is little rest between moves and, therefore, limited time for demonstration during class.

Warm-Up (7 minutes)

Do 8 reps of the following exercises, 3x:

  • step-touch side to side
  • alternating knee lift
  • alternating traveling squat
  • alternating rear lunge
  • modified burpee (step back to plank)
  • push-up on knees

Work Phase (48 minutes)

General tips for alignment and safety:

  • Cue abdominal bracing to stabilize spine during squats, lunges and plank exercises.
  • Encourage participants to take advantage of modifications as needed.
  • Encourage students to maintain neutral neck position during planks and push-ups.

Circuit One: Simple Option

  • Squat, holding dumbbells. Prog-ression: Use heavier resistance. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step. Progression: Use lower step for more challenge. Regression: Do push-up from knees.
  • Quadruped row, alternating sides. Progression: Bring knees closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider knee position.
  • Alternating front lunge, holding dumbbells. Progression: Increase range of motion. Regression: Decrease range of motion.

Circuit Two: 
Balance Challenge

  • Squat, holding dumbbells. Rise to toes while standing. Progression: Squat while holding weights overhead. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with alternating hip extension (lift one leg with each repetition). Progression: Use lower step for more challenge. Regression: Do push-up without hip extension or with knees on floor.
  • Plank row, hands on weights (alternating row from plank position). Progression: Bring feet closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider foot position or move to quadruped.
  • Alternating front lunge with knee balance, holding dumbbells. Do two lunges right, lifting R knee to single-leg stance in between; repeat left. Progression: Add resistance. Regression: Tap foot on floor instead of balancing between reps.

Circuit Three: Increase Range of Motion/Add Power

  • Squat, holding one weight. Swing weight overhead on standing. Progression: Add toe raise. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with plyometric push at top. Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Eliminate power or reduce tempo.
  • Plank row, hands on dumbbells, alternating sides, with frog hop in between (hop feet forward to end in deep squat, feet outside hands, and hop back to plank). Progression: Add two frog hops between rows. Regression: Eliminate frog hop.
  • Alternating front lunge, with plyometric lunge switch in between (step R foot forward to lunge, then hop to switch feet twice, step back to start position, then repeat L). Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Eliminate plyometric lunge switch.

Circuit Four: 
Add Movement and Planes

  • Squat, holding one dumbbell. Circle weight overhead in frontal plane, alternating direction with each rep. Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Use no weight.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with side plank after each push-up, alternating sides. Progression: use narrower foot position. Regression: use wider foot position.
  • Plank row, hands on dumbbells, with rotation, alternating sides. Progression: Bring feet closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider foot position.
  • Alternating front lunge, holding one dumbbell, with chop. Progression: Increase range of motion. Regression: Decrease range of motion.

Repeat the entire 24-minute sequence.

Cool-Down (5 minutes)

Hold each of the following stretches for 30 seconds each:

  • standing quadruped (switch sides)
  • standing pigeon, crossing R ankle over L thigh in semi-squat (repeat L)
  • standing forward fold (hamstrings)
  • chest expansion
  • side bend with arms overhead (alternate)
  • overhead triceps stretch (alternate).

Interval Kickboxing Class Including Cardio, Strength, Core

Are you ready to mix up your martial arts moves? 3-2-1 Kick! is an interval kickboxing class that integrates cardio, strength and core work. In each round of the work phase, innovative cardio kickboxing combinations, martial arts–inspired strength work, and core moves are performed in quick intervals to keep participants engaged, motivated and challenged.

3-2-1 Kick! Details

Goal/Emphasis: total-body kickboxing interval training workout

Time: approximately 45 minutes

Equipment: dumbbells, stability balls and mats

Music: 136–150 beats per minute

Additional notes: Emphasize safety and technique, as punching and kicking involve quick extension and flexion of the elbow, hip and knee joints . Address the following:

  • When throwing punches and kicks, avoid fully extending the joint. Keep elbows and knees slightly bent to prevent hyperextension.
  • Rechamber punches and kicks.
  • Lift the heel to allow hips to rotate while punching. Power is generated from the hips.
  • Emphasize technique and control instead of height for all kicks.

Warm-Up (5–8 minutes)

Begin with standard warm-up movements to elevate heart rate. Gradually progress to basic punches and kicks. Warm-up may include side steps, hamstring curls, knee lifts, light kicks and bob-and-weaves. Review the following:

  • Jab: Straight punch extends from lead hand.
  • Cross: Straight punch extends from back hand (back heel lifts).
  • Hook: Punch comes across face, arm parallel to floor, elbow bent at 90o.
  • Upper cut: Back elbow stays close to body as arm scoops and extends upward, aiming under chin.
  • Elbow: Lower portion of forearm strikes across body, hand at chest.
  • Palm strike: Heel of hand aims front as arm extends.
  • Front kick: With hips facing forward, one leg lifts, knee bent at 90o. Leg extends, aiming with ball of foot. Leg rechambers and returns to original position.
  • Side kick: Knee lifts to chest, heel, hip and shoulder in one straight line. Base foot pivots so that toes point away from kick. Heel thrusts to side, toes down and pulled back. Knee rechambers, and foot returns to floor.
  • Back kick: Knee is lifted, and heel extends back, toes pointing down. Knee rechambers, and foot returns to floor.

Work Phase (30–35 minutes)

Each 6-minute round includes three parts:

  • cardio combination (3 minutes)
  • strength work (2 minutes)
  • core move (1 minute)

Gradually build intensity with each round, peaking with round five. Build form during the first 1½ minutes of the cardio combination, and then repeat 5–6 times “full-out” for the final 1½ minutes.


Cardio Combination

  • Start with hips square to front.
  • Moving forward: Bob and weave right with left upper cut, bob and weave L with R upper cut, 2x (8 cts).
  • Jump rope, moving backward (8 cts).
  • Squat + two punches as you rise up, 2x (8 cts).
  • Speed bag (8 cts).


  • Squat + front kick (alternating), 1 minute.
  • Three-pulse squat + kick (alternating), 1 minute.


  • Lie on stability ball, lower back in center of ball, feet flat on floor. Crunch and punch R and L at top of movement. Return to start and repeat.


Cardio Combination

  • Start in boxing stance, R leg forward.
  • R lead: Jab-cross-jab-cross (4 cts), R hook (2 cts), L upper cut (2 cts).
  • To front: L knee, R knee, L front kick, R front kick (8 cts).
  • Jump legs out, R lead: 4 punches front (4 cts), 2 elbows across (R, L) (4 cts).
  • Squat + 2 hops, 2x (8 cts); turn as you hop to L lead.


  • Start on hands and knees, shoulders over wrists and hips above knees.
  • Abduct R leg, extend leg to side, pointing foot for roundhouse kick. Hold 1–2 seconds, bend knee and return to start (1 minute per leg).


  • Hold high plank: Alternate R and L back kicks.


Cardio Combination

  • Start with legs hip-width apart.
  • Shuffle R (4 cts), jumping jack then R jab (4 cts).
  • Jumping jack then L jab (4 cts), squat center, jump R and L with simultaneous punch to front (4 cts).
  • 2 burpees (16 cts).


  • Push-ups with rotational back-fist (lift one arm and extend fist toward ceiling as body rotates) after each rep. Return to start and repeat on other side (1 minute).
  • Triceps push-up for three pulses, jump legs to squat, lift upper body and palm-strike to front; repeat (1 minute).


  • Side plank on forearm. Progression: Lift top leg, draw knee toward chest and extend for side kick. Rechamber, and rest on top of bottom leg (30 seconds each side).